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The Lady Eve is one of the most memorable comedies of the golden age, and today it stands as a highly entertaining movie that has a lot of enjoyably dated comedy. Particularly hilarious are the scenes in which Stanwyck spills her life story to Fonda as they swoosh under the train tunnel, and the scenes in which the food trays keep spilling on Fonda. The performances are great, and though it seems more like Stanwyck falls for Fonda out of pity more than love, the two work well together. And Barbara Stanwyck in that black, bare-midriff dress is one of the most breath-takingly beautiful images ever to appear on the screen.
Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck light up the delightful Preston
Sturges comedy, "The Lady Eve." Stanwyck plays a dual role as a con
artist who falls for a mark, Henry Fonda, on board a ship and then,
angry with his rejection of her, reappears in his life later as a
member of the British upper class - you got it, the Lady Eve.
Fonda is hilarious as a clueless child of privilege. Always the most subtle, internalized of actors, his facial expressions are priceless, as is his slapstick. The funniest scene takes place on a train when, as the train races along the tracks, Eve recounts her various love affairs while Fonda becomes more and more flummoxed.
Betty Grable got a lot of publicity for her legs, but Stanwyck's were the best, shown to great advantage here, as is the rest of her gorgeous figure. She's fantastic in this and has great chemistry with Fonda. Stanwyck always creates a whole character, and she does here as well (in fact, two of them) as a woman who is smart, independent, vulnerable in love, and conniving when angry.
A great comedy, not to be missed.
"The Lady Eve" marked an important milestone in the career of Preston
Sturgis. Unlike his first two directed films ("Christmas In July" and
"The Great McGinty"), Sturgis got a bigger film budget from Paramount
and had two leading stars in his lead parts. "Christmas In July" had
Dick Powell and Ella Raines in the lead roles. "The Great McGinty"
starred Brian Donleavy and Akim Tamiroff. Now he had Henry Fonda and
Barbara Stanwick. The success of the first two films convinced the
studio to trust him.
Are snakes necessary? That question is one of the double entendres that bedeck this story of a young innocent millionaire who finds love the hard way. Charles Pike (Fonda) is a "Candide" type, coming out of the Amazon Jungle with his factotum aide Muggsy (William Demerest) where he has been studying his passion - snakes. He is an available bachelor, and all the woman on the ocean liner that picks him up aim for him. The one who makes the least effort is Jean Harrington (the daughter of one "Colonel" Harrington - Charles Coburn). Jean does not smile or order Pike's Ale ("The Ale that won for Yale"), which Charles father (Eugene Palette) brews. She gets straight to the point - she trips him. His accidental falling over Jean's foot is symbolic of his eventually falling for Jean.
Jean's motive is not love - she and her father and their "valet" Gerald (Melvin Cooper) are professional card sharks, and they plan to pluck Charles. But Charles and Jean fall in love, and she starts revolting against her father's view of the saps he cons whom he refers to as "suckersapiens". The scene where she uses her wiles to thwart her father's attempts to make a killing at poker is quite funny, especially with Coburn's sudden reactions ("What wonderful cards you've given to me.", he mutters when she gives him an impossibly bad hand).
The romance falls apart when Charles learns of Jean's card-sharping career. Later she meets an old con-artist friend, Sir Alfred MacGlennon Keith (Eric Blore) who knows the Pikes. Introducing Jean as his niece, "Lady Eve Sidgewick" , she enchants the society of the Pike family's town, and only gains the suspicions of two people: Charles who does not know what to make at "Lady Eve"'s great resemblance to Jean, and Muggsy, who is sure they are the same woman.
You will enjoy the disastrous dinner party for Eve, where Charles changes clothes more frequently than a female model at a fashion show. You will enjoy Charles' attempt to propose to Eve, and the silent commentary of a horse who butt's in. You will also find out how Charles and Eve spent the most memorable railroad honeymoon in film comedy.
Are snakes necessary? Yes, but so are card sharks and suckersapiens too.
One of the most delightful and remarkable traits of this movie is the
perfect chemistry between Stanwyck and Fonda. As characters with
completely opposing characteristics, the two act side by side with
fantastic expressions - Fonda's bewildered acting is most hilarious -
and great timing.
Though many consider DOUBLE INDEMNITY to be Barbara Stanwyck's best film, I personally prefer THE LADY EVE because this role has a wider range. Stanwyck is the daughter of a professional gambler and is a pro when it comes to bewitching men for the purpose of cheating their money out of poker games. But she is also pure at heart and wants to come clean when she finally falls for a man probably unlike any she had ever encountered before. Then things go wrong, but the best part of the film starts right here, when Stanwyck becomes an actress playing an actress. It is simply amazing how perfect her acting is, to such a degree that Fonda's character doubts himself as to whether the lady in front of him is the woman he once knew or a different woman altogether.
The film is very adept at making the audience feel slightly bewildered, like Fonda's character Charles Pike. It makes the viewers dazzled, leaving them feeling like Charles, while marveling at Jean Harrington's (Stanwyck) tactics. Full of witticisms and brilliant performances, THE LADY EVE is undoubtedly one of the best comedies of the flourishing year of 1941.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The one about the naive, unworldly guy falling for the fast-talking cynical gal who starts out by using him and winds up loving him is hardly new indeed Stanwyck herself played virtually the same role in Ball Of Fire whilst Gary Cooper, her 'victim' in Fire did something similar in Mr Deeds Goes To Town where Jean Arthur came to laugh and stayed to love and so on. Nevertheless Sturges is able to give a hackneyed plot a fresh coat of paint with some fine writing and direction and it does no harm to have a first-rate cast from the two leads, Fonda and Stanwyck through Eric Blore, Eugene Palette, Charles Coburn, Melville Cooper and fully paid-up member of the Preston Sturges Repertory Company William Deamarest. This is the one where virtually all the main characters have two names and Stanwyck comes complete with two personas; there should really be a sub-genre for films like this and others like Easy Living (written but not directed by Sturgis) Sophisticated Screwball but call it what you will it's still great.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
My first foray into the films of director Preston Sturges (I've been a
bit hesitant to watch one of his films, for fear of disappointment I
guess) came with THE LADY EVE. Well, I wasn't disappointed- it was
amazing! The dialogue was scorchingly witty and fast-paced and Barbara
Stanwyck was just perfect. Forget the hoo-ha over Miss Stanwyck not
winning the Oscar in 1944 for her Phyllis Dietrichson in the classic
noir DOUBLE INDEMNITY. She should have won it for this film! She was
nominated in 1941, but for BALL OF FIRE (another screwball comedy with
Gary Cooper as her leading man, directed by Howard Hawks). I've not
seen the film. so I can't really judge if she's any better there than
here, but it's hard to see anyone topping this performance in that
year. Forget the de Havilland-Fontaine battle, this should have been
It contains one one of the most sexiest scenes I've yet seen- you all know which one, the scene in Stanwyck's cabin with Fonda where she rakes her fingers through his hair, leaving him literally frozen and quite breathless! Hopsie (Fonda, also wonderful and taking pratfalls with an ease I never thought possible)looks like he needs a cold shower, and so does the audience! Phew!
I just loved it!
Probably one of the classic screwball romantic comedies of all time, this film remains a fast and furious delight. The comedy isn't just in the witty lines, but the sudden bits of business, the abrupt switches from high comedy to slapstick, and the wonderful interplay of the performers. Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck were never funnier, livelier, nor would either of them be more romantic. There are so many memorable scenes, such as the disastrous dinner party (with Fonda tripping all over himself or tripping up others), or the honeymoon on the train, that it's impossible to do the film justice. It's one of the high points of literacy in Preston Sturges's career, with such gems as Eric Blore's comment "I positively swill in their ale," or William Demarest's declaration "Positively the same dame!" It's positively one of Preston Sturges's best comedies.
I have heard a lot about this movie from various critics and in books, and
after seeing it I'm not too impressed. To me it just seemed like a routine
studio romantic comedy from the 30s or 40s. It didn't have a unique
storyline or great ending. Even the "famous scene" was just Fonda lying on
the floor looking stupid while Stanwyck tricks him into loving her. In fact
I can barely remember the context of her speech let alone any
funny/memorable lines from it (and i just watched the movie). Now I realize
that modern taste in comedy is a lot different from what was considered
funny back then; but movies like "Bringing up Baby" most of the Marx Bros.
films and Abbott and Costello are all funnier to me then this. Fonda is
especially bland and unfunny (oh wait, he's always bland and unfunny) in his
role as the overly stupid wealthy bachelor. He trips over stuff but has no
funny lines and is vanilla as per usual. Stanwyck is much better, and keeps
things lively on her end. Also to the films credit the pace is quick and
things move along. The movie wasn't horrible or anything like that, but I
don't see why this particular movie became as famous as it did in front of
any of the hundreds and hundreds of other studio releases from the same time
period. If your video store still caries old vhs tapes why don't you try
out this experiment...Rent The Lady Eve, and then rent like 3 other old
comedies from the late 30s and early 40s. Then ask yourself, does this
movie standout from the others; and if so why? If you answer "yes", come
back here and explain it to me, I'd love to know why.
After one year in Amazon researching snakes, the naive ophidiologist
Charles Pike (Henry Fonda) returns to the United States in a
transatlantic. Charles is the son of the Connecticut's brewery
millionaire Mr. Pike (Eugene Palette) and disputed by gold diggers. The
swindlers Jean Harrington (Barbara Stanwyck), her father "Colonel"
Harrington (Charles Coburn) and their friend Gerald (Melville Cooper)
plan a confidence trick on Charles, but unexpectedly Jean falls in love
with Charles and she calls off the scheme. However Charles's bodyguard
Muggsy (William Demarest) discovers that Jean is a con-artist and the
disappointed Charles leaves Jean.
Sometime later, in New York, the trio of con-artists meets their friend "Sir" Alfred McGlennan Keith (Eric Blore) in the horse races and they learn that "Sir" Alfred belonged to the high-society of Connecticut based on the reputation he had built. Jean sees the opportunity to take revenge at Charles, and she travels to the house of her "aunt" pretending to be the British noble Lady Eve. Mr. Pike promotes a party for Lady Eve and she seduces Charles that proposes her. But her intention is to get even with Charles.
"The Lady Eve" is a wonderful romantic comedy by Preston Sturges. The lovely Barbara Stanwyck has a witty performance in the role of a swindler that falls in love with a naive heir. The best moments of the movie belongs to her and I laughed when she tells her adventure in the tube in New York; or when she discloses her love affairs to Charles in their honeymoon. Henry Fonda is funny in the role of a simple and credulous son of a millionaire. The result is a movie that makes laugh and feels nostalgia for a time when the society could buy a story so delightfully unbelievable and witty. My vote is eight.
Title (Brazil): "As Três Noites de Eva" ("The Three Nights of Eve")
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I realize that the screwball comedy genre has its own kind of logic,
but "The Lady Eve" strikes me as having no logic at all. Though well
written, which one expects from a Sturges film, I came away with the
unsettling sense that the audience was being played for suckers.
The turning point in the film appears to be the moment when Hopsie was presented with a photo of Jean and her father as evidence of their swindling career. This can come as no surprise to the audience, which has already seen how the Colonel can turn a five-card nothing into four kings, then four aces. But can a supposed scientist (I forget the proper name for "snake hunter") be so gullible as to fall for his blatant card-sharpery? And when he confronts Jean with the photo, can his sense of betrayal and humiliation really be so shocking to her?
Yet this event sends Jean on a completely preposterous crusade of revenge. What exactly is her trick? To pose as an upper-class Brit who, by coincidence, looks exactly like Jean. And though Muggsy, Hopsie's dimwit ward, sees though the imposture immediately, our scientist falls for it, literally and figuratively, in no time.
Jean/Eve finally delivers the coup de grace while on their honeymoon -- in a train, of course. As she divulges her numerous supposed dalliances, Sturges intercuts shots of train whistles, lightning and the obligatory tunnel. Maybe this Freudian stuff was novel back in 1941; today it verges on self- parody. Watching Hopsie detrain with a muddy pratfall (one of literally dozens in the film), Eve/Jean seems to have an attack of conscience, as though she's just now realizing he "the only man I ever loved."
Stanwyck is sensational, even if her character(s) make no sense at all. William Demarest is very good, and occasionally hilarious, as Muggsy. The whole case, in fact, is first-rate. But Fonda's character is impossible to sympathize with, let alone root for, so improbably clueless and clumsy is Hopsie. Is he really surprised that an English aristocrat is not a virgin (the whole point of the setup)? Is he really so stupid as to fall for a grifter not once, but twice? Yes, evidently he is. It's clear to me that his real element is with the snakes of the Amazon, not those of Connecticut.
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